Updated: Dec 23, 2021
We are thrilled to introduce you to our second cohort of RISE Fellows. Purvi Tanwani is a female entrepreneur working in Kolkata, India, to improve access to sanitary products. She is the Co-Founder of Anahat, an organization that provides alternative livelihood options to women living in marginalized areas of West Bengal.
They simultaneously solve the issues of menstrual products being inaccessible and expensive by employing local women to make affordable and reusable cloth pads, underwear, baby diapers and facemasks. Their work supports women by providing them with an alternative form of livelihood, which will help the women to support their families.
Continue reading below to learn more about Purvi and her work!
"Purvi, can you share with our community more about yourself? What were you doing before your entrepreneurial journey?"
I co-founded Anahat when I was 25 years old. Being a social entrepreneur was never something that I thought I would do. I, just like any other management graduate wanted to make money for a corporate. After graduating from Christ University in Bangalore with a degree in BBA (Hons), I immediately landed a job in the Mergers & Acquisition (Consultancy) wing of KPMG India Pvt. Ltd as an Analyst. My role involved creating data books and assisting managers in the due diligence of companies. I was oddly comfortable working with a high-achieving bunch of CA’s and assisting them in million-dollar deals. After a stint of 2.5 years in KPMG, I realised there was not much for me to explore in my current position at work. I quit my job in 2018 and returned to my hometown. In this same year, I founded Anahat along with my co-founder Namrata.
"Can you tell us more about your business?"
My sustainable business's impact is threefold. The women I employ make durable and sustainable products that are used by women and girls in areas where menstrual pads are inaccessible or expensive. Additionally, our products are completely handmade by a group of marginalized women who will now have access to an alternative livelihood to support their families. Lastly, our menstrual pads are reusable and made out of natural materials, which reduces the damage that disposable pads cause on the environment.
So far, we have distributed more than 7,500 hygiene kits to women in urban slums, villages and tea gardens. This has provided an income to more than 100 women working in South 24 Parganas, Nadia district and in the Tea Gardens of Darjeeling.
In the future, I plan to scale up the project to reach more areas with underserved communities. We want to scale our capacity building program so that we can fulfil more orders in the areas that we are already serving.
"What inspired you to dedicate your life to this work?"
My interest in social impact projects arose around the time we had the opportunity to conduct a pan-India WASH impact assessment study for a corporate giant. This study required me to travel across the lengths of rural India and supervise a research study on the usage of individual household toilets in the catchment area of the company. This study opened my eye to various issues that women in rural areas face, starting from lack of water in Maharashtra to menstrual product disposal issues in Haryana and Rajasthan.
In some locations, women had limited access to a hygienic menstrual care product and proper education to manage menstruation. When we came back from the study, we wanted to design a model which would not only provide a sustainable solution for menstruation but would also generate income for the local women.
We started doing R&D with various materials for making reusable cloth pads. Our aim was to make a product which would last for more than 3 years and at the same time would be economical. Our idea received support from various organizations and corporations who were working in the space of menstrual health and hygiene. We went on to train several women in making reusable cloth pads as a skill development program and livelihood program.
"What do you hope to gain from this experience?"
This initiative has been close to my heart for several reasons. Firstly, we are able to provide alternative livelihoods for more than 80 women. These women were relying on us for their children’s education. Moreover, the beneficiaries who receive the product are inspired to completely switch to this sustainable alternative.
Recently, we have started getting more demand for the products from the rural areas. Looking at the demands we started training women as ‘lead sellers’ to sell the products in interior villages to promote the product and create demand. I hope to reach a stage where our products are openly recognized by all organizations including the government as a hygienic sustainable alternative.
Inspired by Purvi's work? You can support our RISE Fellows through our donation link on our website. Click here to donate.